I’ve been zooming around London on a Mango Curve since late summer. One of the latest editions to their customisable bike family, I’m pretty lucky that it hasn’t yet been nicked or sucked in under a bus. Nippy, light and resiliently tough the new Curve shape is perfect for a lady such as myself: a vertically challenged wearer of dresses who needs to dart from East to Central via North London on most days. The Curve’s durability and ease is important to me, and the never-ending pot-holes of the city (any city) are no match for the Mango!
“We use high-tensile steel for the frame. It’s cost effective, and much better for around town and commuting as it’s much tougher. It has more flex, where as aluminium or carbon fibre can snap on hard surfaces. Outside of the frame we use aluminium to keep the bikes light” Jezz Skelton, director at Mango Bikes, tells me. It’s a looker too for a ‘girls’ bike – slim with a fixie twang, but it isn’t a style bike per se. There is a lot of branding on each component that some might find a little much, but I can honestly say that I have had a multitude of positive comments about my Curve. It appears that the affordable, stylish and fully customisable Mango bikes are getting it right for us commuters.
I caught up with Skelton at Mango HQ in the Cotswolds where each bike is assembled. Surrounded by a swarm of multi-coloured tyres, pedals and frames, I really wanted to get to the ins and outs of Mango, the logistics of their customisation, and why we should all be riding Mango bikes…
Girls have been riding standard cross bar bikes for years, why did you make The Curve?
People were asking us for a ladies design so we looked at the market. There wasn’t much outside the bigger cruisers or Dutchies so we designed our own. By dropping the top tube and welding it down but with a curve it became a little less angular and had good structure. It is available in three-speed Shimano gears or single. It’s not big and heavy, it’s not crazy either – just a great commuter.
Who designs the bikes?
We come up with the ideas and Ben’s engineer dad (Ben is the other director at Mango) works the designs to see if they are feasible.
…and how did you arrive at your first design?
We took the standard single speed and changed the frame. We tested it and it seemed to work. Ben, who was my housemate at Uni, was really into bikes, he’d worked for big world cup teams in the mechanical side of things, so he already had the knowledge.
What kind of tyres are you using?
We use Kenda tyres. Great quality and they’re made especially for us, as we offer all the colours.
What about the other components?
All our saddles are made just for us too, our pedals are also branded and we use Chasewood cranks. That’s actually a brand of our own. It’s a new business of ours in collaboration with one of our factories that will launch soon. We could have bought in top quality branded cracks but it would’ve cost us a fortune, so we made our own.
What challenges do you face looking forward?
We struggle slightly with the price point being so good and people naturally thinking that the quality isn’t there or the bikes aren’t great. The way we do it is going direct to the manufacturer and keeping the price point low.
Does the infinite personalisation ever get you into trouble?
(Laughs) Yep, too many options. Great for marketing and people talking about it, but they spend ages on the site and can’t make up their minds. There are over 191 million colour combinations, so we have to work out what our top sellers are. Black, blue & white are the favourites in the UK. Now we have customers in Sweden, yellow is popular – which didn’t sell before – so we’ve made a decision that means all frames will come raw, unpainted, and we’ll spray them in the new premises. We’ll be powder coating the frames as the paint stays for much longer. This will mean we will always be in stock. Paint the frames per sale. Sorted.
You can totally mess about with the colours then? Two-tone, a complete mish-mash…?
Absolutely, you can get all sorts of finishes too, or just a clear lacker over the steel frame. There is so much more room for customisation.
So, any new products on the cards?
We’ve just released the Mini Mango toddler bike, which is really exciting. No one does that! It’s going to be great.
I really like that Ben, Jezz and the team at Mango are so dedicated to the brand. Of course one would be but what strikes me is even though they are constantly developing products and new ideas their key ethos is to keep the price point attainable. There are enough super-style bikes out there and not enough ‘family’ bike brands outside of the ugly and affordable mountain bike ranges. Mango bikes are filling that gap.
I’m looking forward to seeing how their paint studio develops. Soon their workshop will offer the option to have any colour from any palate with any finish. This will give a complete new meaning to the world of bike customisation.